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Coffee!!: Should we reject Darwinism due to its obvious support for new atheism?

Recently, a group of friends was mulling over coffee whether one should reject Darwinism in principle because it is the creation story of atheism. One friend argued that we should not reject it just because its staunchest proponents are mostly atheists.

I am not so sure. Consider this: Approximately 80 percent of evolutionary biologists (= Darwinists) are pure naturalists (no God and no free will, according to William Provine’s recent study). Welcome to the world of Minority Report, where social engineering seems completely reasonable, even “humane.” As in the “Humane Society.”

Now let me put a case to you:

Assume that 80% of the members of a social group also hold memberships in a Communist or other type of Fascist political party. But I, as it happens, am a free speech journalist who supports an open society. Should I continue to hang around with them, or distance myself from them, repent, and then feel free to denounce them when they eventually perpetrate some fraud or evil?

In my humble opinion, it is NOT irrelevant that the new atheists are overwhelmingly Darwinists. That guides the way they interpret data, and the way they behave toward scientists who dissent from their orthodoxy, based on failure to replicate their results or legitimate suspicion as to how they were obtained.

The Darwinists’ certainty that they are right is based on occult knowledge (= natural selection, in reality an important conservative force in nature, has unbelievable creative powers.) They need to believe that, so they do.

Madam Xerxa, our local psychic, is just as certain that she is right, based on occult knowledge, but on a much humbler level. In her dirty, ramshackle walkup, she can predict only the future, not the past. But, hey, she doesn’t charge as much for her nonsense.*

Classic unbelievable beliefs, both. But unbelievable beliefs have consequences. So I would argue that a high level of acceptance by atheists is a good reason for a high level of suspicion on the part of others.

The new atheists have the right to be atheists on their own time, but not to front a system dedicated to that purpose at tax expense – and call it science.

* The Darwinist claims to know what Stone Age man was thinking about religion or about shopping. Madam Xerxa can merely inform you that you will soon meet a tall, dark, and attractive-looking stranger.

Yes, of course, that traffic plod who caught you doing 50 km in a 40 km zone! $120 later in fines, Madam Xerxa is still right.

If either of these propositions is science, I am an apple pie.

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35 Responses to Coffee!!: Should we reject Darwinism due to its obvious support for new atheism?

  1. 1. You compare New Atheists to communists and fascists. Guilt by association is a dirty, fallacious trick.

    2. You claim we should reject Darwinism because of the incidental beliefs of Darwinists. Does the same argument not apply then to Intelligent Design, the vast majority of the adherents of which are conservative Protestant Christians?

  2. Retroman, I don’t think new atheist beliefs about how society should be run are incidental to their philosophical assumptions in general – that humans are accidental outcroppings of random evolution.

    Same with traditional Christians who believe that humans are made in the image of God.

    I know which group has the stronger commitment to the sanctity of human life and, as an older person with many much older friends, I know which group I more trust with our lives. No prizes for guessing.

  3. It would be helpful if they explained what they mean by “Darwinism” apart from a catch-all label for what they don’t like about anyone who isn’t a conservative Christian.

  4. Sev: “It would be helpful if they explained what they mean by “Darwinism” apart from a catch-all label for what they don’t like about anyone who isn’t a conservative Christian.”

    There are plenty of people who consider themselves “conservative Christians” who are Darwinists. It isn’t just leftists or center-leftists that populate the theistic evolutionist camp (George Will is a perfect example).

  5. I don’t reject Darwinism because a few of the shrill new atheists support it. I reject it because, at its core, it’s not a scientific theory at all but rather a philosophy that states that nothing in this universe really matters because it’s all random and undirected.

  6. @5

    1) Darwinism certainly is a scientific theory.
    2) Nowhere does Darwinism state that nothing in the universe matters. That is how you choose to interpret Darwinism because of your preconceptions about what gives value or importance to things in the universe.
    3) Your personal like or dislike of the implications of Darwinism do not impact on its validity, therefore that is not a reasonable basis to reject it.
    4) The implications you draw about Darwinism are not universal, as many ‘Darwinists’ are Christians (and people of other religious faiths).

  7. You compare New Atheists to communists and fascists.

    In his latest book Richard Dawkins compares ID advocates to Holocaust deniers.

    Guilt by association is a dirty, fallacious trick.

    They should stop associating ;)

  8. O’Leary said:
    Approximately 80 percent of evolutionary biologists (= Darwinists) are pure naturalists (no God and no free will, according to William Provine’s recent study).

    Vs.

    Seversky:It would be helpful if they explained what they mean by “Darwinism” apart from a catch-all label for what they don’t like about anyone who isn’t a conservative Christian.

    paulmc:Nowhere does Darwinism state that nothing in the universe matters. ….. The implications you draw about Darwinism are not universal, as many ‘Darwinists’ are Christians (and people of other religious faiths).

    Seversky, she did explain it.

    Paulmc, she didn’t say it was universal.

    You seem to be letting your prejudice turn you into illiterates.

  9. paulmc’s most important (IMHO) point at 6 seems to be getting lost:

    3) Your personal like or dislike of the implications of Darwinism do not impact on its validity, therefore that is not a reasonable basis to reject it.

    If we assume for the sake of argument that modern evolutionary theory is a reasonably accurate description of reality and further assume, again for the sake of argument, that being convinced by the evidence for modern evolutionary theory means that one is far more likely to be an atheist, I have two questions:

    1) Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory is independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?

    2) Why is it so bad to be an atheist?

  10. 1) Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?

    No. Theories are developed in a context, including and especially a social context. The “independence of theories” is a myth.

    2) Why is it so bad to be an atheist?

    Because it’s a false view of reality, and ideas have consequences. Sometimes quite horrible consequences.

    So back to the original point:

    3) Your personal like or dislike of the implications of Darwinism do not impact on its validity, therefore that is not a reasonable basis to reject it.

    Barb’s rejection wasn’t based on her likes and dislikes, so this “most important point” missed the point making it quite unimportant.

  11. Mung @ 7:

    The New Atheists use the Guilt by Association fallacy too? Where I come from, that’s called Tu Quoque.

    My 6 year old tried to explain his misbehavior (cursing) by saying that other kids did it too. Think I punished him anyway? Darn right I did. That kind of logic doesn’t fly with me.

  12. 1) Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory is independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?

    I would point out that proponents of the theory have admitted that they’re seeking explanations which seem natural to them, whatever that means, and not the truth. Given that, your “for the sake of argument” argument is mostly just that. But even given your argument, if evolution was supposedly true and a knowledge of it destroyed civilization (naturally enough) then your question answers itself.

    You said: Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory is independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?

    Of course not if evolutionary “theory” and/or evolutionary creation myths undermine civilization then no educated and literate person will be left to know whether it is true or false. This can been seen at the individual level as well. If your knowledge is totally reducible to the biochemical state of your brain at this moment, which is in turn reducible to genes shaped by natural selection operating on a group of ancient ape-like creatures and so on then your knowledge becomes rather insignificant. As the information in your mind of synaptic “gaps” is reduced to blind and ignorant processes with the same evolutionary creation myths that (in theory) do away with a God of the gaps you’re left with ignorance. It’s curious that those who are the first to declare man’s ultimate insignificance also seem to think themselves significant enough to do so. And so on. This applies at a social level as well as an individual level. If there is a form of knowledge which destroys itself and leads to ignorance, then one might be more knowledgeable and better off not knowing it even if it is accurate. (The gnostics symbolized it as a snake eating its own tale.) At any rate, your argument for the sake of argument is incorrect. Evolutionary creation myths are generally inaccurate as well as destructive to civilization and consequently to science.

  13. 13

    Mung at 10,

    “1) Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?”

    No. Theories are developed in a context, including and especially a social context. The “independence of theories” is a myth.

    I’m somewhat surprised by this statement, since I usually hear it from those atheistic post-modernists. Are you asserting that reality is a social construct?

    “2) Why is it so bad to be an atheist?”

    Because it’s a false view of reality

    That’s a very strong claim. Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to back it up?

  14. 14

    Mynym at 12,

    “1) Isn’t the truth or falsity of modern evolutionary theory is independent of any social consequences of being convinced of the theory?”

    I would point out that proponents of the theory have admitted that they’re seeking explanations which seem natural to them, whatever that means, and not the truth.

    Could you please provide cites to such statements? Most scientists of my acquaintance are looking for accurate descriptions of reality.

    But even given your argument, if evolution was supposedly true and a knowledge of it destroyed civilization (naturally enough) then your question answers itself.

    We’re not talking about the destruction of civilization, although that would be an interesting premise for a science fiction novel. The original post starts with:

    Recently, a group of friends was mulling over coffee whether one should reject Darwinism in principle because it is the creation story of atheism.

    Leaving aside the “creation story of atheism” bit, the question boils down to “Should we reject an accurate description of reality because we don’t like the consequences?” This seems to me a very strange question. Evolution either happened or it didn’t. The mechanisms identified by modern evolutionary theory either explain how it happened or they don’t. These are truth claims about objective reality.

    Why would anyone reject knowledge solely because it might have consequences they don’t like? What does it even mean to “reject” knowledge? Isn’t voluntary ignorance even more potentially dangerous?

    I’m genuinely confused about what is being recommended here.

  15. Mustela Nivalis,

    That’s a very strong claim. Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to back it up?

    Do you have any objective, empirical evidence that Mung should back it up with objective and empirical evidence? Objective and empirical evidence is not the only reasons we have for asking questions or giving answers, and your question of what is so bad about atheism is just one of these types of questions that doesn’t need empirical evidence to be asked, and shouldn’t demand any to be answered. I happen to think that this prerequisite criterion of empirical evidence is itself not empirical, so it shouldn’t demand as an answer something that it cannot produce for the grounds of its own existence. You asked the question of what is so bad about atheism, and one of the things that is so bad about it is a confused philosophical position that requires empirical evidence for everything except for itself. It confuses physics and metaphysics because it is so steeped in materialism, it forgets to turn the qualifications that it demands back on itself and doesn’t see the self-referential incoherence that results. This is one of the most obvious things that is wrong with it, it demands grounds for all other claims what it cannot give as grounds for its own claim. Saying that atheism is a false view of reality need not have any empirical evidence, just as the question “what’s wrong with being an atheist?” never had any empirical evidence to begin with.

  16. “Leaving aside the “creation story of atheism” bit, the question boils down to “Should we reject an accurate description of reality because we don’t like the consequences?” This seems to me a very strange question. Evolution either happened or it didn’t. The mechanisms identified by modern evolutionary theory either explain how it happened or they don’t. These are truth claims about objective reality.”

    No one here is rejecting accurate information, because of its consequences. I am not aware of any accurate information being rejected by people here. Though I could see why some my want to do in certain circumstances having nothing to do with evolution. What we have here is false information being disseminated and because many believe this false information, they are led to actions they would not ordinarily take.

    Some do not care whether it is true or not, they will believe it anyway which is why we say Darwinists show just as much religious faith as many religious people. They believe in something without any empirical support.

  17. Paulmc, she didn’t say it was universal.

    You seem to be letting your prejudice turn you into illiterates.

    I was responding to Barb, not to to O’Leary. I hardly think that qualifies me as illiterate. Perhaps you could respond to what M. nivalis correctly identifies as my most important point in response to what Barb said:

    Your personal like or dislike of the implications of Darwinism do not impact on its validity, therefore that is not a reasonable basis to reject it.

    rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks.

  18. Paulmc @6 –
    “1) Darwinism certainly is a scientific theory.”

    It’s more a philosophy than anything else.

    “2) Nowhere does Darwinism state that nothing in the universe matters. That is how you choose to interpret Darwinism because of your preconceptions about what gives value or importance to things in the universe.”

    No, it’s how scientists like Steven Weinberg and Richard Dawkins interpret Darwinism.

    “3) Your personal like or dislike of the implications of Darwinism do not impact on its validity, therefore that is not a reasonable basis to reject it.”

    The lack of evidence impacts on its validity. “Hey, look a transitional fossil!” “Wait, never mind.”

    “4) The implications you draw about Darwinism are not universal, as many ‘Darwinists’ are Christians (and people of other religious faiths).”

    Yes, call themselves Christians. But are they really following the teachings of Jesus, who clearly believed that Adam and Eve were real persons?

  19. 19

    Jerry at 16,

    No one here is rejecting accurate information, because of its consequences. I am not aware of any accurate information being rejected by people here.

    I agree with you that most people I’ve read here are seeking accurate information (truth, if you will), hence my confusion about what the original poster is recommending.

    With any luck, Ms. O’Leary will have the time and inclination to clarify her intention in this thread.

  20. Some do not care whether it is true or not, they will believe it anyway which is why we say Darwinists show just as much religious faith as many religious people.

    This is a poor characterisation of why people accept evolution as true, regardless of whatever you mean by “some”.

    I suggest generally people take the reasonable view that the balance of evidence accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists working in the field is more likely to be correct than internet pundits or the occasional dissenter.

    This is reasonable because they know they lack the expertise to fully evaluate the evidence themselves. In the same way, I’m sure most evolutionary biologists do not have expertise in medicine, and allow the same degree of professional respect for the expertise of medical doctors when they are unwell.

    This is not a matter of faith. Regarding evidence, I have provided a basis for discussion on this in the richard dawkins/william lane craig thread.

  21. paulmc: “the balance of evidence accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists…”

    I don’t necessarily dispute the evidence per se but, rather, the interpretation of the evidence.

    And what you suggest is a reasonable view is really a logical fallacy (argumentum ad populum). Even if a majority of people believe in the tooth fairy, that does not make the tooth fairy real.

  22. 22

    Clive Hayden at 15,

    Objective and empirical evidence is not the only reasons we have for asking questions or giving answers, and your question of what is so bad about atheism is just one of these types of questions that doesn’t need empirical evidence to be asked, and shouldn’t demand any to be answered.

    Could you please explain why you feel this way? I know a number of non-religious people who give every impression of being “good”. They are in committed, loving relationships, they care for their extended families, they donate money and time to charities, they treat others as they would like to be treated, etc. Having more people like that around doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    (Yes, I know many “good” Christians as well. I’m not saying that one must be an atheist to be good, but my experience is that it doesn’t automatically make one bad.)

  23. I find it quite quite safe to say that people may be good or bad regardless of religion.

    Several billions of people on this planet are not christian, are they all bad people?

    Why is that a subject worth discussing?

  24. Mustela Nivalis,

    I said:

    Do you have any objective, empirical evidence that Mung should back it up with objective and empirical evidence? Objective and empirical evidence is not the only reasons we have for asking questions or giving answers, and your question of what is so bad about atheism is just one of these types of questions that doesn’t need empirical evidence to be asked, and shouldn’t demand any to be answered. I happen to think that this prerequisite criterion of empirical evidence is itself not empirical, so it shouldn’t demand as an answer something that it cannot produce for the grounds of its own existence. You asked the question of what is so bad about atheism, and one of the things that is so bad about it is a confused philosophical position that requires empirical evidence for everything except for itself. It confuses physics and metaphysics because it is so steeped in materialism, it forgets to turn the qualifications that it demands back on itself and doesn’t see the self-referential incoherence that results. This is one of the most obvious things that is wrong with it, it demands grounds for all other claims what it cannot give as grounds for its own claim. Saying that atheism is a false view of reality need not have any empirical evidence, just as the question “what’s wrong with being an atheist?” never had any empirical evidence to begin with.

    And you responded with:

    Could you please explain why you feel this way? I know a number of non-religious people who give every impression of being “good”. They are in committed, loving relationships, they care for their extended families, they donate money and time to charities, they treat others as they would like to be treated, etc. Having more people like that around doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

    Why in the world are you talking about your friends? I was pointing out that empirical evidence isn’t necessary for answers to certain questions which have no empirical evidence themselves, and that to demand it is to be self-referentially incoherent. How your friends act is irrelevant in this discussion. Demanding that Mung provide objective empirical evidence as to atheism being bad because it is against reality, in response to your question of why atheism is bad, when the question you asked has no empirical evidence as to why it is a valid question to begin with, is wrong headed. That’s all I was pointing out. Any discussion of your friends is just avoiding my point and changing the subject. Mung doesn’t have to provide empirical evidence as to why atheism is bad, for atheism doesn’t have any empirical evidence itself. By its own criterion of empiricism, which is a philosophy that can never have any empirical evidence, it would cease to exist. This is one of the reasons that atheism as an endeavor is flawed, it requires a presupposition of materialism what it cannot produce for itself.

  25. @21
    Barb said:

    And what you suggest is a reasonable view is really a logical fallacy (argumentum ad populum). Even if a majority of people believe in the tooth fairy, that does not make the tooth fairy real.

    I did not say that evolutionary theory is correct because a majority of people believe it. I described why I believe a majority of people who accept evolution do so.

    Therefore, I did not make the argumentum ad populum that you claim.

    My reason for the above was that people, lacking the expertise to independently evaluate evidence, accept the viewpoint of those that do have this expertise. That is what I said is reasonable.

    I don’t necessarily dispute the evidence per se but, rather, the interpretation of the evidence.

    Nonetheless you have stated above that you reject evolutionary theory (Darwinism) because you interpret it as removing meaning from objects in the universe. This is a genuine logical fallacy, as your rejection is not based on whether evolutionary theory is correct or not.

  26. The New Atheists use the Guilt by Association fallacy too? Where I come from, that’s called Tu Quoque.

    It depends. I did not use their actions to justify anything. I merely observed that they did so. Equal time, and all that ;).

    My 6 year old tried to explain his misbehavior (cursing) by saying that other kids did it too. Think I punished him anyway? Darn right I did. That kind of logic doesn’t fly with me.

    It’s not up to me to tell you how or when to punish your child, but was he really engaged in a tu quoque, and if so, did you explain it to him before you meted out the punishment?

    Children imitate. Adults imitate. It’s a complex issue of when imitation is tpo be encouraged and when it is to be discouraged. Tu Quoque doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    But just so we’re clear, I was not necessarily disagreeing with your original point.

    Guilt by association is a dirty, fallacious trick.

    It can be, and all too often is. This I do not dispute. But what if the association is real and relevant? Where does the Denys’s OP fit into all this?

    Atheists are associated with fascists by…

    Atheists are associated with communists by…

    ID theorists are associated with holocaust deniers by…

    2. You claim we should reject Darwinism because of the incidental beliefs of Darwinists.

    Incidental beliefs? No, I think it is more fundamental than that.

    Does the same argument not apply then to Intelligent Design, the vast majority of the adherents of which are conservative Protestant Christians?

    If ID entails certain things which we find anathema, yes.

  27. Mustela @13

    Are you asserting that reality is a social construct?

    No. How did you arrive at this construction of what I said from what I actually said?

    Atheism is a false view of reality.

    That’s a very strong claim. Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to back it up?

    It’s neither more nor less strong than the claim that “Atheism is a true view of reality.”

    You:

    Why is it so bad to be an atheist?

    Why is it so bad to be someone who believes that atheism is a true view of reality?

    You:

    That’s a very strong claim. Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to back it up?

    Well, do you?

  28. Clive, are you saying that one should not request empirical evidence for a claim because there is no empirical evidence that empirical evidence is a useful standard to evaluate a claim?

    How does that position work in, say, a court of law?

    fG

  29. Paulmc 2 25-
    “I did not say that evolutionary theory is correct because a majority of people believe it. I described why I believe a majority of people who accept evolution do so.

    Therefore, I did not make the argumentum ad populum that you claim.”

    You stated that it was reasonable for people to follow the lead of those scientists who believe in evolution. Even if a majority of scientists believe in it, that doesn’t make it true; it stands or falls on the evidence at hand.

    While most people don’t have a background in science, they are certainly capable of thinking for themselves and not allowing others to do their thinking for them.

    I stand by my statement that you made a logical fallacy. Suggesting that it’s reasonable to follow the majority is argumentum ad populum.

    “Nonetheless you have stated above that you reject evolutionary theory (Darwinism) because you interpret it as removing meaning from objects in the universe. This is a genuine logical fallacy, as your rejection is not based on whether evolutionary theory is correct or not.”

    I reject Darwinism because it does not have enough evidence to convince me. Scientists such as Weinberg and Dawkins have openly remarked that life itself is pointless and that the universe is indifferent.

    I suggest that they are interpreting Darwin completely wrong; they are allowing their atheistic ideology to cloud their scientific expertise. They are committing the logical fallacy, not me.

  30. 30

    Clive Hayden at 24,

    Why in the world are you talking about your friends?

    I was providing anecdotal evidence that atheists are not inherently bad people. Since the original post up above implied that “Darwinism” is bad because it increases the number of atheists, this is pertinent.

    I was pointing out that empirical evidence isn’t necessary for answers to certain questions which have no empirical evidence themselves

    What does it mean for a question to have or not have “empirical evidence”?

    Mung made a claim, namely that atheism is a “false view of reality”. In any logical discussion, the person making a claim has the burden of supporting it.

  31. 31

    Mung at 27,

    “That’s a very strong claim. Do you have any objective, empirical evidence to back it up?”

    It’s neither more nor less strong than the claim that “Atheism is a true view of reality.”

    Nonetheless, it is a claim that you have made. If you cannot support it logically, in a rational discussion you must retract it.

  32. Mustela,

    Mung made a claim, namely that atheism is a “false view of reality”. In any logical discussion, the person making a claim has the burden of supporting it.

    But not the burden of supporting all questions with empirical evidence. I don’t think I need to keep laboring the point, because it seems that you understand, given that you’re now saying that Mung “has the burden of supporting” his claim without your previous criterion of empiricism. It seems that you’re requiring support of any kind now, even metaphysical support, not strictly empirical evidence. I am merely pointing out that materialists cannot produce empirical evidence for why there should be empirical evidence. This would be trying to get an ought from an is, which is impossible. Nor do they seem to realize that all of their materialist philosophy cannot produce for itself any material as grounds for why it should exist in the first place.

  33. 33

    Clive Hayden at 32,

    I don’t think I need to keep laboring the point, because it seems that you understand, given that you’re now saying that Mung “has the burden of supporting” his claim without your previous criterion of empiricism.

    Fair enough, although I was talking there in general about the burden of proof. Since Mung’s claim is about the physical world, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect objective, empirical evidence. I’d be interested in any support, though.

    I am merely pointing out that materialists cannot produce empirical evidence for why there should be empirical evidence.

    I believe this is a category error. The requirement for empirical evidence for a claim about physical reality (e.g. “This exists.” or “This works this way.”) derives from logic and reason. We could pick a different system of logic to work within that doesn’t require such evidence, but we’ve found that the system we use has better results in terms of explanatory and predictive power.

  34. Mustela,

    I believe this is a category error. The requirement for empirical evidence for a claim about physical reality (e.g. “This exists.” or “This works this way.”) derives from logic and reason. We could pick a different system of logic to work within that doesn’t require such evidence, but we’ve found that the system we use has better results in terms of explanatory and predictive power.

    The logic that is employed above is itself not empirical.

    “One popular distinction is between what is called scientific thought and other kinds of thought. It is widely believed that scientific thought does put us in touch with reality, whereas moral or metaphysical thought does not. On this view, when we say that the universe is a space-time continuum we are saying something about reality, whereas if we say that the universe is futile, or that men ought to have a living wage, we are only describing our own subjective feelings. That is why in modern stories of what the Americans call ‘scientifictional’ type—stories about unknown species who inhabit other planets or the depth of the sea—these creatures are usually pictured as being wholly devoid of our moral standards but as accepting of our scientific standards. The implication is, of course, that scientific thought, being objective, will be the same for all creatures that can reason at all, whereas moral thought, being merely a subjective thing like one’s taste in food, might be expected to vary from species to species.

    But the distinction thus made between scientific and non scientific thoughts will not easily bear the weight we are attempting to put on it. The cycle of scientific thought is from experiment to hypothesis and thence to verification and a new hypothesis. Experiment means sense experiences specially arranged. Verification involves inferences. ‘If X existed, then under conditions Y, we should have the experience Z.’ We then produce the conditions Y and Z appears. We thence infer the existence of X. Now it is clear that the only part of this process which assures us of any reality outside ourselves is precisely the inference ‘If X, then Z’, or conversely, ‘Since Z, therefore X.’ The other parts of the process, namely hypothesis and experiment, cannot by themselves give us any assurance. The hypothesis is, admittedly, a mental construction—something, as they say, ‘inside our own heads’. And the experiment is a state of our own consciousness. It is, say, a dial reading or a color seen if you heat the fluid in the test tube. That is to say, it is a state of visual sensation. The apparatus used in the experiment is believed to exist outside our minds only on the strength of an inference: it is inferred as the cause of our visual sensations. I am not at all suggesting that the inference is a bad one. I am not a subjective idealist and I fully believe that the distinction we make between an experiment in a dream and an experiment in a laboratory is a sound one. I am only pointing out that the material or external world in general is an inferred world and that therefore particular experiments, far from taking us out of the magic circle of inference into some supposed direct contact with reality, are themselves evidential only as part of that great inference.

    The physical sciences, then, depend on the validity of logic just as much as metaphysics or mathematics. If popular thought feels ‘science’ to be different from all other kinds of knowledge because science is experimentally verifiable, popular thought is mistaken. Experimental verification is not a new kind of assurance coming in to supply the deficiencies of mere logic. We should therefore abandon the distinction between scientific and non-scientific thought. The proper distinction is between logical and non-logical thought.

    [W]e can make no distinction between science and other logical exercises of thought, for if logic is discredited science must go down with it…

    Logic is a real insight into the way in which real things have to exist…Unless we take to be knowledge is an illusion, we must hold in thinking we are not reading rationality into an irrational universe but responding to a rationality with which the universe has always been saturated…

    I am well aware that many whose philosophy involves this subjective view of values do in fact sometimes make great efforts for the cause of justice or freedom. But that is because they forget their philosophy. When they really get to work they think that justice is really good-objectively obligatory whether any one likes it or not: they remember their opposite philosophical belief only when they go back to the lecture room…In a word, unless we allow ultimate reality to be moral, we cannot morally condemn it…

    The defiance of the good atheist hurled at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind that cosmos which he recognizes as infinitely valuable and authoritative: for if mercy and justice were really only private whims of his own with no objective and impersonal roots, and if he realized this, he could not go on being indignant. The fact that he arraigns heaven itself for disregarding them means that at some level of his mind he knows they are enthroned in a higher heaven still…

    C.S. Lewis, De Futilitate
    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

  35. Barb @29

    I suggest that they are interpreting Darwin completely wrong

    Indeed, if Dawkins or anyone else has said that Darwinism means that life is pointless or that we cannot derive value from objects in the universe then I agree.

    While most people don’t have a background in science, they are certainly capable of thinking for themselves and not allowing others to do their thinking for them.

    Again, we are in agreement here. Nonetheless, a part of being reasonable is accepting that others may be more knowledgeable on certain topics than we are.

    It is fine to draw one’s own conclusions, but how valid is that conclusion when one is working with a small fraction of the information that the expert in that field might have available to them – let alone the time to evaluate it? This is compounded by the quality of information that many people might regularly access.

    Ceding to what is practically a consensus in the scientific community regarding the broad tenets of evolutionary theory thus remains a reasonable position to take for members of the public. It does not mean thoughtlessly accepting what one is told.

    Suggesting that it’s reasonable to follow the majority is argumentum ad populum.

    In order to make your claim, you caricature my position as following the majority. Yet, as I have restated, this is clearly not what I am saying.

    Besides, the majority of people in the United States, if you believe the polls, do not accept evolution. Hence to simply “follow the majority” without critical thought, one would mindlessly reject evolution.

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